Planning a trip requires hours of research to figure out where you want to go, what you want to see, how many days will you have in the place and how much you want to spend.
Nowadays I love to plan our trips, with hourly itineraries, detailed instructions of how to get where, which bus/train/subway to take, how much to pay and all that. But there was a time when I did not do any of that.
I was in my early twenties, on an exchange student program in London (UK), on a student’s budget but with a big curiosity to add countries to my list of visited ones. It was early August 2003, summer and my husband (then boyfriend), another friend and me went to the Easy Internet Cafe at Tottenham Court Road and decided to check how much it would cost us to rent a car to tour some small towns of the UK, maybe a beach, maybe even go to Scotland (I can’t really remember the places we considered visiting) for a week.
Expensive! I remember that the car alone was 400 Pounds, which was around the amount the 3 of us intended to be the overall cost of our trip, so that was out of the question. Then my creative husband decided to take a look at how much it would cost to go to Italy… I have no idea why Italy crossed his mind, but sure, let’s check it out! Thanks to Ryanair we found roundtrip from London Luton to Treviso and back from Bergamo to London Luton for 39 Pounds per person. Guess what we did? We got the tickets! But guess what? They were for early evening next day!
I remember being so excited about it, it was the first time I was actually involved in the process of planning a leisure trip (since I don’t count as planning for your exchange student program as a leisurely planning) and that was going to be the second country I had ever visited. So what did I do? For some reason I was delegated the task of figuring out what would be the places we shouldn’t miss. I bought a 5 Pounds travel book that said the 5 places you should see in Italy for the first time were Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan and Naples and that seemed perfect! That morning we booked a hostel in Rome, a hotel in Naples and a camp site near Florence… but nothing in Venice, which was our first stop, because we could obviously go to the youth hostel there and for sure there would be 3 available beds, right?
So we land in Venice, or Treviso, at 10:30pm. It is hot, 35 Celsius (95 Fahrenheit).
We try to rent a car at the Treviso airport and they ask for 400 Euros for one week and we say “no, thank you”. Then ask about how much a cab would cost to take us to Venice and it was going to be expensive. Then we learn there is a bus that would take us to Mestre and from there it was an easy ride to Venice and we go for it. The bus ride was ridiculously short and we kind of felt ripped off and then once in Mestre, it was fairly straightforward to get to Venice proper.
But we were hungry, we needed to stop for dinner. So we stopped at a pizzeria and paid 45 Euros between the 3 of us for a thin pizza and drinks, which was way out of our budget. But it was our first time in Italy, first meal there and we knew that such a splurge would not be repeated. After that, we went to the youth hostel. They were all booked. Then we went door to door to every hotel we could find but they were all booked up. We managed to find one hotel… but they only had one single bed room and wanted to charge 80 Euros per person to share that one single bed room. No, thank you, we’ll sleep on the street.
We “setup camp” in one of those water taxi stops. It was already 2 am and sunrise would be around 6, so the suffering wouldn’t be that bad. All I can say is that the mosquitoes had a feast. Then 6 am came, we gave up on trying to sleep and went to Venezia Santa Lucia train station to check our options to get to Naples. There we learn we would need to go back to Mestre later in the day to hop on a train to Bologna, where we change and hop on a night train to Naples. Great! It wasn’t even 8 am and we had it all figured out, so now all we should do until the afternoon was to do some sightseeing. Apparently that day was one of the hottest that summer. It got to 50 Celsius (122 Fahrenheit), I managed to get us lost in on of Venice’s little islands but we eventually got to the place we wanted to see: Piazza San Marco.
I can go on an on and tell the rest of our trip, which was really cool and where I learned a lot, but my key message here is: the whole trip could have been more productive had we planned it more carefully with the little time we had to do so. Even though the more time you have for planning the better, when you have no option and have little time to put a trip together try to go through the basic questions for at least your port of arrival:
1) Where will I sleep upon arrival?
2) How will I get from airport/train station/port to my hotel?
3) How much will that cost me?
I think knowing these things, everything else will fall into place and will pay off in the sense you will have very little to worry about on your time off. Unless you are in your early twenties! Had I planned the Venice leg of the trip properly, I would not have a story to tell about that time in Venice! 😉
Here is to adventure!